Calling Her Name

Learn how your child&s ability to pay attention develops in the early years.
Nov 28, 2012



Nov 28, 2012

When will your baby respond to hearing her name? Let us look first at how attention develops in young babies. Attention is a very important landmark of infant development. Initially, your baby can focus about 12 to 18 inches from her eyes. This is the ideal distance between a nursing baby held in her mother's arms and the mother's eyes.

By her second month, if you have been cooing and talking with her, then as you approach her room and call her name, she should be trying to turn her head in the crib in the direction from which your voice came. If your baby is nearing 6 months and does not turn her head toward you as you call her name, you will need to have her hearing tested. Nowadays, there are very accurate tests for hearing loss for young babies that your pediatrician can recommend.
First, however, ask yourself how much you have been holding your baby up so that his eyes look directly at you as you smile and coo and talk to him with an animated voice and a loving smile. Babies are attentive to grown-ups who play these cooing games back and forth and hold them right up to their own eye level. After playing these games, you may find your baby is delighted to attend to you and also respond to your animated talking with his own delighted cooing sounds.

  • Look What I See!
    A new level of attention sharing occurs by about 10 months. Your baby begins to look in the direction that you are pointing to show her something interesting, such as a big red truck passing by on the street beneath the window where you are holding her so that she can see outside.
  • Be a Tour Guide
    Try to point out interesting things to your baby. As you walk with him in the stroller, talk about and show him where a doggy is stopping to sniff at something on the grass. Be patient and cheer him on to focus on interesting events. Pick him up and point out the flowers in pots on your windowsill. Point out the pictures in books you share as you snuggle together. His attentiveness should increase greatly as you encourage and affirm the wonders of sharing attention together.
  • Getting to the Point
    Your baby develops a powerful new attention skill by about 10 or 11 months. She can point to draw your attention to something interesting that she wants to share with you. She will also now begin to point and vocalize that she wants you to get something, such as a cookie from the cookie jar or a favorite toy from a shelf. This "shared joint attention" is a wonderful milestone!
  • Play Ball!
    Another fascinating and important aspect of attention has to do with its relationship to compliance. If you want your baby to do something, such as roll a ball to you, first you need to focus baby's attention on the ball, and then ask for the desired action. In other words, first say, "Look at the ball, honey!" to your child before you ask him to try rolling the ball to you. Sit facing each other with legs apart and toes touching as you play this "roll-the-ball game" on the floor. Research shows that focusing a tot's attention first will increase chances for compliance with your request.
Following Directions
Attention and Focus
Hand-Eye Coordination
Raising Kids
Listening and Speaking
Age 2
Age 1
Early Learning
Child Development and Behavior
Learning and Cognitive Development